Tuesday, November 10, 2015

concert review: Alexander String Quartet and Joyce Yang

I love piano quintets (string quartet + piano). I couldn't miss a concert with three of my favorites in the genre: Schumann, Brahms, and (in a distinctly different idiom) Alfred Schnittke.

This was in Herbst Theatre, SF's premiere venue for chamber music, just reopened after being closed for two years for earthquake retrofitting and remodeling. The auditorium looks nicer; so do the restrooms, though they're still eccentrically located and of dubious size. I sat just underneath the overhang, which I'd never done in this auditorium before. Perhaps that's why the sound came across as muffled, and often rather plush.

I've never considered the Alexanders a very exciting quartet. Their Schumann and Brahms were dutiful and well put together, but not particularly distinctive. The Schnittke, in which the piano and quartet play much more separate roles than the melded style of the other composers, perhaps came across the best, due to crisp and vivid playing by Ms. Yang.

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